You’ve probably taken photos with your smartphone or at the very least have seen others take photos with their phones. Photos are a great way to document a moment in time and save it to view again later.
But how do we make sure we get the best pictures? The ones that tell a story. That look good, even to people who didn’t attend. One way is to move around and get different angles. Move so something different is in the foreground, something else completes the story in the background.
I was reminded of this when I played on the United Way of East Central Iowa volleyball team that participated in the annual Alliant Energy volleyball tournament. The event’s proceeds benefit the community through United Way.
I walked around and took a few photos. Below are two photos of virtually the same scene. The first one shows the United Way sign straight on. You can also see the fence and some of the courts behind it. The second one required me to take a few steps to the right and bend my knees. I would say the second one is a much better shot. The banner is the dominating piece in the photo, but you can also see the Volley’s sign and building. You can also see a couple of people.
A good reminder that just a few steps to the right, left, forward or back can help you get a better photo.
I’m scheduled to teach two classes at Kirkwood Community College in late 2013 and early 2014.
Social Media Strategy
Time to get on the social media bandwagon? Get a brief history of social media, discussion of historical impacts and help determining the best strategy for implementing social media in your company. After you’ve established a strategy, learn how to implement social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare and more!
One class starts Sept. 10. Registration has closed.
Search Engine Marketing
When you search for something online do you ever go past the first page of results? Most people don’t. That’s why it’s important that your business ranks high on search engine result pages. Learn techniques that you can use to rank higher. Leave with a general understanding of search engine marketing and how paid and organic search work together to help your personal or professional brand garner more customers. The class will conclude with a final project to help you master and understand the entire overview. You are encouraged to spend between $20 and $100 on one search engine ad platform.
The 2013 United Way of East Central Iowa printed campaign materials included a new feature: Augmented reality. Through the use of a smartphone app you can view videos of the stories shown inside the print piece and listen to audio clips of donors shown.
In August, we also participated in a Twitter chat on the topic.
Augmented reality brings print media into the digital world in ways that enchant and encourage an audience to engage more deeply with content.
For content marketers on this week’s #contentchat, it evoked fascinating possibilities and plenty of questions. Luckily, our guest Christoph Trappe of United Way of Central Iowa was on hand to discuss how the organization has used the technology for its own content marketing.
The rest of the chat can be found here.
This post was written for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to help small businesses in the Cedar Rapids Metro Area.
We hear a lot about storytelling nowadays. Some organizations do it. Many are talking about wanting to do it. But how do you tell stories? And how do you share them? And how do you decide where to share them?
This post discusses how organizations of any size (smaller ones, too!) can get this process started.
First of, stories are not your traditional marketing message or campaign, though, they could be used in that medium.
Why share stories? Research has shown that people react differently to stories. When we share stories that are meaningful to the audience, they see the story unfold in their minds. Their bodies have a physical reaction, too. They can feel the details. In comparison, when somebody reads a PowerPoint to his audience, people don’t have that same feeling. That’s not a story.
Requirements to tell stories
It’s important to commit to wanting to share stories. In larger organizations, that means that the C-level team (CEO, CMO, etc.) need to buy in and endorse this. Even if you can’t get the entire team to publicly endorse this, it’s important to get key leaders on board!
An easy way to get this ball rolling: Sell the idea to somebody on the C-level. See if they’ll let you appoint them as the executive lead/ambassador/whatever.
Now, if you own a small business owner and you are the C-level at your organization, you’ll just have to convince yourself.
Once you decided that you want to share authentic stories around your business it’s important that you explain to staff what that means to you, that you support them bringing ideas and capturing stories as they run across them.
Even if you work long hours, chances are your employees – if you have employees – will run across some of the stories worth sharing. You want to make sure to remind them that this is important and valued.
What’s a story?
An authentic story is a story that is true and actually happened.
That’s pretty much it! Perhaps it’s a bit more complicated when you think about what stories to actually share.
To share a story they should have some level of being interesting. Better yet, they evoke some emotional response. A review of New York Times articles found that the ones that were shared most evoked positive emotions. Those were followed closely by ones that evoked negative emotions. (Source: Susan M. Weinschenk’s “How to Get People to Do Stuff.”)
Participated in a Twitter chat that highlighted some of United Way of East Central Iowa’s content ideas. Click here for the overview.
From the article to explain why topical homepages can work:
Like an impressive home entryway, a beautifully designed website homepage can attract visitors to explore further. But guests are often not quite as enchanted when they return.
They’ve seen it.
So what if you could create new excitement on your homepage while drawing attention to the latest events going on within your organization or company?
I was invited to participate in two hours of peer-to-peer problem solving at the 2013 American Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Conference in Arlington, VA. I was one of 24 finalists for the association’s Nonprofit Marketer of the Year Award. And while I didn’t end up receiving the award, I was invited to help problem solve issues surrounding social media.
The setup was pretty simple. Four 25-minute sessions with different people. The only rule that I knew of: It should have to do with social media.
I speak to groups about social media but hadn’t participated in this kind of setup before. People could bring any kind of problem. I couldn’t really prepare beyond what I already knew.
I answered questions about email newsletters and how the subject line could help increase open rates. (Some audiences like specific subject lines. Others like generic ones. Test what works for your audience.)
We talked about how to break up complex content into snackable pieces that could be distributed through Twitter. (Through back and forth collaboration between communications and the subject matter experts. “If I simplify it like this is this still correct?”)
We also talked about how to define a brand’s voice and how to define audiences. (Answer here)
Overall, this was a great experience. Amazing how you can learn something when others ask you the actual questions. I would be happy to do this again.
Some of the resources that I shared with the group
Asking yourself – or somebody else – a specific question can help you come up with a story idea.
Why do I need a story in the first place?
More and more companies are publishing their own content through their websites, social media and other channels. And while this can help companies and organizations connect with customers and advocates it’s also different from a few years ago when journalists were about the only group of professionals sharing stories with the public.
Today, most organizations or businesses have a website. Some use it as a static information portal: Here are directions. Here’s our phone number. Some use it to share stories. The blue graphic shows four common set-ups of websites. At United Way in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in early 2013 we used topical homepages, which means that the homepage reflects a specific time period’s focus. Sometimes this includes information on where to feed hungry children during the summer, how to find volunteer opportunities and stories from donors on why they give back through United Way.
Stories work because people can relate to them and stories are much easier to remember than just data. (Though data certainly can help a good story be great if used to advance the story.)
Whether you are in marketing, sales, IT or are one of your company’s subject matter expert chances are you will probably run across stories in your daily work that would help share your organization’s story if they were shared publicly.
But how do you spot those stories?
Asking the right questions to get your story started
Journalists come up with stories all the time. Sometimes they run across them almost by mistake. They pay attention as they are going through their daily lives.
“I wonder what’s going on over there. Let me go find out …”
“Why are people doing this?”
Sometimes they happen because an editor asked a very specific question:
“I saw a picture of public official A and it looks like he lost a lot of weight. I wonder if he’d let us do a story on his success.”
“Anything news worthy listed in the police log today?”
Specificity can help you find stories, even if you aren’t a journalist but your organization has started to share its authentic success stories.
Some questions to consider to help spot stories:
- What happened today that stood out to me?
- What surprised me today?
- What will I share with a friend or significant other tonight?
- Of all the things that happened today which one made the biggest impact on my organization?
- What was on my team’s agenda today?
- What’s the most important and urgent project right now?
Some of the answers to these probably couldn’t be published. The answers might include confidential information. And that’s OK. You don’t have to share those pieces. Even journalists don’t report everything they run across. But it’s a starting point to come up with stories that an organization might consider sharing publicly through its website, social channels and even pitch to relevant media companies.
Filed from my iPad
As more and more brands tweet, Facebook, blog and publish their stories and content on various other old and new channels, it’s also important that you think about your brand’s voice.
Your brand voice is how you sound when you write tweets, respond to Facebook questions, respond to emails and how your blog posts are written, for example.
What should your brand voice be?
Your voice should reflect your style and way of doing business. If you have a fun, quirky coffee shop that caters to new technology lovers your brand’s voice should fit that audience.
Perhaps your brand’s voice could be defined as:
Fun, quirky, on the cutting edge, but not offending.
If you are a serious attorney’s office your brand voice should reflect that. It might be defined like this:
Serious. Informational. Trustworthy, but not chatty.
In my definitions I like to use two to three words that describe the brand (Do This) and one “but not ..” example (Do Not Do This).
It helps people communicating publicly for a brand (especially when there is more than one person) to have a bit of guidance that can be easily referred back to.
An example for United Way in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where more than a dozen people communicate publicly through branded channels:
Same set-up here. United Way’s work is serious, but there’s still room to have fun and share information in a fun (conversational) way.
For my own personal brand, I share most of what I have to say on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and my blog at ChristophsBlog.com, where you can also find links to the first three networks.
I never actually sat down and wrote a formal plan on what my voice would be. It has definitely evolved from just chit-chatting to more focused. I would describe my own voice now as:
Sharing, personal, chatty and responsive but not overbearing.
Defining your voice
These questions might help you define your voice:
1) How would you describe your typical customer?
2) How would you describe a customer group that you would like to engage but haven’t been able to?
3) How would you describe the atmosphere in your business environment? This could be in your store, over the phone, etc.
4) How would you describe how you want your business to be described by the public?
The answers could give you a clue to what your brand voice might be. Let’s take a look at potential answers and how they might help you. (This example is totally made up and does not reflect an actual business that I know of.)
1) Older. Established business people. Connected. BlackBerry users who recently switched to iPhones.
2) Younger business people, who are up and coming. We think they know of us but aren’t extremely loyal, yet.
3) Friendly. Business-like. Helpful. Cordial.
4) Helpful. Easy to work with.
Potential brand voice:
Easy-going, helpful and conversational, but not too casual.
That exact voice might not work for your exact brand, but you probably get the idea on how to take a stab at defining your brand’s voice.
The more unique your brand voice is the easier it should be for customers, advocates, etc., to feel connected to you. Isn’t that much better than everyone sounding the same?
No matter what your voice might end up being, remember to be clear about what can be shared publicly, what can’t be shared publicly, and which content could go either way depending on the situation.
You may choose to download my Social Media Strategy template here that can help you and your organization define the do’s and don’ts as well as other parts of your content engagement.
Coca-Cola’s Content Journey
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how we can share the community’s stories and preserve them for future generations. United Way of East Central Iowa, where I currently work, is certainly doing some of this for its network. I know other community members are interested in the topic, but how can we make it community wide?
This is a PowerPoint that I presented at BarcampICR #3 in Coralville on June 15, 2013.
I actually helped plan BarcampICR #1 in Iowa City a couple of years ago, but wasn’t able to attend it because of a family commitment. It was good that I finally made one.
My session was one of the first three to run simultaneously. I had 20 minutes to get through the PowerPoint and leave room for discussion.
Right before I got to the part of a slide that said “Thoughts? Questions? Comments?” people started throwing out ideas. Kind of cool how that worked out…
- Content needs to be structured somehow. Who has the time to read every story? Perhaps structure around interests, geographic areas, etc.?
- Who curates content? How does content get shared?
- Even if we have one community space how do people find it?
- What’s in it for the person who is sharing stories? Why would they?
- Writing feels like school. People are more likely to just read. Video or audio recording could be one way around this.
- What about the stories that you don’t want to share publicly? Where do they go?
The structured content piece and how to find content is especially interesting. Of the 15 or so people in the session I saw several taking photos during the presentation. Where did those photos go? I don’t know. How can I add to their thoughts (assuming they shared a thought when they posted the photo somewhere? I assume they were posted somewhere)?
If I missed something here feel free to drop me a note and I’ll add it.
Great session and morning. It went by fast.
What is a Barcamp?
People show up, write their ideas on a grid and the community picks what sessions will be presented. Two to three presentations run at the same time and attendees attend what interests them most.
The full board of presentations
This German candid camera show hit on all cylinders when it came to executing on a content distribution strategy on June 22, 2013. Let’s take a look.
The show was scheduled to air on German TV at 8:15 p.m. local time. Before that, it was promoted on the show’s YouTube channel through a casual clip by the show’s moderator.
The show’s Twitter stream was humming along before the show and was interacting with fans during the show.
And finally, while all this was going on, the show uploaded the candid camera clips to its YouTube channel live as they were being shown on TV. Of course, the people that subscribed to that channel – like me, for example – received an email that the new clips were now up.
Great job, hitting many different channels to share content and get to as many audiences as possible! (I’m even wondering which channels that were used that I’m not aware of!)
Note: This first appeared on the United Way of East Central Iowa Marketing Blog.
The CMS Association recognized our site and this concept and execution with the Best CMS Site of the Year (WordPress) Award for 2012-2013. For the announcement go here.
At United Way in Cedar Rapids, we try to build community awareness around specific topics. While our main areas (income, health, education and volunteering) remain the same, there are many sub-topics that we want to highlight throughout the year.
To accomplish this we create topical homepages for different time periods. For example, when we have a community event on Adverse Childhood Experiences we highlight this topic on the homepage. At the beginning of the legislative session we created a video that highlighted how we can help our families that do not earn enough to meet basic needs.
When we were looking to recruit volunteers for 150-some projects, we decided to launch a Virtual Volunteer Fair.
Using WordPress on the backend, this is relatively easy to set up.
This specific presentation was first created for 15-minute presentations at the Cedar Rapids Optimist and Marion/Cedar Rapids Rotary clubs in April 2013.
In this presentation, I give a quick overview of social media, who uses it and why people might consider joining the social media bandwagon.
Branding a business or oneself, of course, is one reason. Doing this successfully can help us feel more connected, become more knowledgeable and even make more money.
Helping share the community’s and your own story is another reason to get involved. If we aren’t writing stories down (either in a blog post – though I don’t necessarily think that blogs are social media – in Tweets or on Facebook, for example) our stories will only live in somebody’s memory.
Social media can help us as a business, personal brand and the community as a whole.
The slides from the presentation are below.